Exploring the intersection of art and science at Vanderbilt
I am an experienced scientist passionate about science communication, multi-disciplinary projects, and online learning and engagement approaches. It is critical that we find new strategies to communicate scientific finding and engage the public. Using online learning and visualization methods, I am exploring visual science communication to support online education and science marketing approaches. Although classically trained as a research scientist in pharmacology, I consider myself a science communication designer with skills ranging from project management, pedagogical approaches to online learning, video production, instructional design, and web design. With a foundation as a cross-disciplinary team member, I am interested in developing and utilizing these skills to produce science marketing, communication, and engagement strategies, particularly those at the intersection of art and science.
The Wond’ry is hosting a virtual conference that The Wond’ry is holding on May 22nd. You can submit your artwork and present a 5-minute poster of your Spring 2020 projects with ArtLab. This is a great way to hear about cross- disciplinarity within The Wond’ry, add a line to your CV/resume, network, and show off your beautiful artwork.
Wire sits at the crossroads of many different roles. It can be used to make fences or to link objects. We’ve found a shape for metal that we use to hold up bridges and to serve as sources of light. It’s used in all sorts of electronics, and it can be used as part of musical instruments and art installations.
Wire is an exciting medium to work with because there aren’t strictly defined rules of how it’s supposed to be used. There’s a sense of spontaneity. Wire itself is essentially one dimensional, but it can be used to form 2D and 3D pieces, effortlessly moving between dimensions. Wire jumps around as you work with it, which can be frustrating at times, but it also serves as a reminder that you’re working with a physical object that takes up space. It is always so rewarding to be able to hold the finished piece.
One of my favorite ways to destress is to make small jewelry pieces with wire. It’s easy to be cynical and think of jewelry as perpetuating social divisions and coming from an exploitative industry, but we humans have a long history of creating and wearing jewelry just to enjoy decorating ourselves.
Desert Life is a one-of-a-kind, ART, BIOLOGY and NATURE immersion experience in the Chihuahuan Desert in the Southwest, U.S. This site-specific program focuses on an ART and SCIENCE exploration of the diverse desert wildlife from varied natural habitats of the Chihuahuan Desert. For generations the Southwest deserts, their diverse, unique wildlife and stunning geography, have been the source of inspiration and wonder for artists, naturalists, and biologists. Through hands-on observation, artistic interpretation, collaboration and various biological and natural history methods, we will learn to utilize the natural habitat as a STUDIO+LAB to explore and make informed art about desert plants, animals, and nature.
The Annette and Irwin Eskind Family Biomedical Library and Learning Center is sponsoring an exhibit from April 8 to May 8, 2020 entitled, “Telling our stories: graphic medicine and the intersection of art and healthcare.”
Graphic Medicine utilizes comics as its medium to help patients, families, health sciences students, and all levels of clinical staff with healing, coping, educating, and communicating the many aspects of our interactions with health care. It distinguishes itself as a form of art therapy by encouraging artistic expression in the context of health care whether the subject is clinical, research, education, financial, or organizational.
The library’s exhibit is seeking works of art from the Vanderbilt community based upon their health care experiences. Staff, students, faculty, and patients from Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are invited to participate in this campus-wide event. The exhibit, held at the Eskind Biomedical Library, opens with a panel discussion and a reception on April 8 at 4:00 PM.
Visit this website often for more information and updates. An additional webpage includes consumer health biomedical information resources to assist with comics content development and lifelong learning. There are also links to selected citations pertaining to Graphic Medicine. Information about the upcoming Art Days is available on the Tips & Tricks page.
Art-Science | Public Outreach | Visual science communication
It is common to place art and science on different ends of a spectrum, but creativity is an essential component to the scientiﬁc process just as it is vital for the artists. Artists and scientists share an unquenchable curiosity for the unknown. They also explore and question the world to create something new. It is clear that media plays a critical role in transmitting and disseminating scientiﬁc knowledge and that visuals dominate our oversaturated information culture. Better communication approaches are needed to address this divide, particularly in the form of visual art. With the vast disconnect between research and the public, an artist-in-residence program offer a new path to cultivate public understanding of science, and visualize things from complex biological processes to novel clinical ﬁndings. This program is an opportunity for self-identiﬁed artists to explore the area of art-science. The program promotes multi-disciplinary approaches but aims to have the participants create art that suitable as cover art. The participants will also have there work featured in the spring 2020 ArtLab Exhibition.
For the AiR residency, participants will produce work over the summer of 2019. Artist applications were openned May 6th and closed May 17th. Laboratories interested in hosting an artist applied for the program. The laboratories detailed potential projects, pending papers, and other information about the artist role within their laboratories.
In addition to the full residency, a cover art and art request submission system will be developed. Laboratories that wish to submit cover art for papers currently under review will be asked to provide a summary of the article. Summaries will be shared with the artist group.
Overall, these two programs will build a foundation for future artist-scientist collaborations and foster innovative approaches to promote science communication and the publics understanding of science.
Owen Murphy is an electronic enginner by day and a lser show specialist by night. This year, we have invited him to the ArtLab Exhibition to present a laser lights display April 11 at the Wond’ry (RSVP today!). He is currentyl an electronic engineer at Thorlabs Quantum Electronics where he develops electronics for complex optical engines used in optical coherence technology imagin systems. He also contributes to circul design, developing automate test aftware, and is involved in regulatory compliance. Given his vital role in FOCAL POINT: Lights, Lasers, and Lesnses, we were curious to find out more about Owen’s sources of inspiration and history, and of course how this current endeavor speaks to both aspects of art and science.
Would you describe yourself as an artist? Based upon your engineering background you certainly have a handle on scientific material. Is art more a venture or more closely tied to your own work?
I would consider myself more of an engineer than an artist since I spend most of time designing electronics, but working on laser displays is definitely an artistic venture for me. It’s great to have an artistic outlet like this, and I’m really appreciative of you guys for bringing me out to show off my work!
How did your technical career come to incorporate artistic elements?
I had always been a tinkerer as a child, but I first got into electronics specifically through music. I started playing guitar in middle school, and quickly found out that I could build your own guitar effects pedals. I spent a lot of time when I was younger scanning the internet, looking for schematics for effects designs, not really knowing what I was looking at. When I went to college, I studied electrical engineering in part to get a better understanding of the electronics I had been working with. After I graduated, I ended up working at two different companies that built laser light show projectors.
How are the displays which you will be creating inspired and made possible by both a scientific and artistic methods?
Laser shows, in my opinion, are perfect examples of combination of science and art. The invention of the laser in the 50’s and the 60’s was really the culmination of a lot of work in quantum physics and material science, so laser shows are definitely made possible by the hard work of dedicated scientists (plus lasers just look really “science-y”). Having worked for a few companies that develop new laser light show equipment, I can tell you that the technology used for laser displays is constantly changing. And while the medium (lasers) is directly coupled to some pretty complex science, laser shows are absolutely an artistic endeavor.
What motivated you to merge the two subjects?
Music has always been a major part of my life, and I was luckily able to find a job after college that meshed my technical education and my love of music, specifically in a live environment. I was initially brought in simply to help out with the electronics design, but I tried my hand at actually programming shows, and it turned out I had a knack for it. Though I no longer run laser shows professionally, I was able to work on some really interesting, fun, and high profile work. In addition to music festivals, sports events and concert tours, I was the laser programmer and operator for the TV show America’s Got Talent (AGT) for three years in a row. My company even won an artistic award from the International Laser Display Association for the work I did on AGT.
How would you say that each side of this art-science dichotomy informs the other? Are there ways in which artistic approaches have influenced your perception of what is possible with sciences, and vice versa?
I personally design electronics for a living, and I have always considered it a creative endeavor. A lot of people look at something like electronics, and think that because there is a lot of math involved, or that because it is such a technical discipline, that it’s all about following formulas and plugging numbers into equations. But there really is a lot of creativity that goes into it. When I get a list of requirements for a new design, there are usually many different ways to achieve the goal, and a lot of time, it involves thinking outside the box. Looking at it in a broader way, the history of science is littered with extremely creative people making important discoveries.
Friend: “Oh, I really fell in love when I was apprenticing for “(some big name artist).”
Me: “Really? What did you do as his apprentice?”
Friend: “Here, see this painting he sold at this auction? I painted that. And this one. And this one.”
Me: “What? But his name is on it.”
Friend: “Yeah, I mean, he may have done something to it after I painted it. I just can’t tell.”
Me: “Did you report him?”
Friend: “No way! It was an awesome opportunity. This is just how ‘Major League’ art works. The artist named isn’t always the painter.”
That casual conversation kept tumbling in my head. All my visions of the lonely, tortured artists started to contrast with armies of carefully coordinated painters attacking commissioned projects. This made so much more sense! How was Thomas Kinkade, “The Painter of Light” so prolific? He had a MASSIVE staff, directed to paint lots of light. The superstar artist Jeff Koons (estimated net worth ~$500M) once said, “I’m basically the idea person. I’m not physically involved in the production. I don’t have the necessary abilities, so I go to the top people.” One such work, “Cracked Egg”, is reported as having been painted by an undergrad at $15/hr before being sold in 2003 for $501,933 (New York Times Magazine). This industrialization of one artist’s brand is not a new concept, either, just unpopular. Studios or bodegas have existed to amplify the production of a few individuals since The Renaissance. And why am I surprised? In any other pursuit, a person that finds success usually delegates to expand her circle of influence and do more of what they enjoy (or what’s lucrative). Apple outsources their manufacturing. The firm partners hire more lawyers. The Pope appoints priests. And professors take grad students.
Credit gets equally strange in the scientific community. Authorship and inventorship are often parsed out subjectively in a weird postmortem of long, winding projects. Academically, physical experimentation is often performed by multiple people with varied expertise. The direction of these projects often starts with the Principle Investigator (professor heading the lab), but the application of the ideas often involves creativity and invention. Often, the end goal – or the plan to reach it – is changed as team members discover a better approach. The initial pioneers often find a need to rely on the skills of another. Sometimes, whole portions of the work are contracted out.
There are many fair-minded and generous scientists that still struggle in appropriately defining the role of a given contributor.
I came up with the idea, but I made it work using equipment curated by my advisor in his lab over the course of 15 years. Does he own part of the idea because he allotted me the resources?
My student has worked tirelessly in doing everything I’ve asked to complete this body of experiments, but hasn’t contributed intellectually to the project. Does he deserve inventorship on this patent?
I’m finishing up the work another student left unfinished. Without me, it would not be completed. Do I deserve more credit than her for doing only 20% of the work? What’s the additive percent worth of finishing the project?
These same questions can always be extended, too. How much credit does the academic institution deserve for providing space? Does the NIH deserve credit for funding this project? Does the taxpayer deserve credit for funding the NIH? By the same extension, does the commissioner of a given artwork share in the responsibility for its creation? Is the Medici family’s lowest serf in some way responsible for Donatello’s art by contributing to the Medici coffers?
Art and Science are societal culminations blossoming from the most mundane foundations. FedEx delivered my PCR primers and my oil paints this week. I could not have done much without FedEx. Some guy in a purple shirt should probably be a fine print coauthor on my painting and my publication on drug delivery.
A true master in any field will have willing apprentices. The apprentice will take the contract he’s given in the hopes of making his tomorrow better. The world is not fair. Absolute answers are tricky. Everyone should take pride in the accomplishments in Science. And Art. We all own a piece. We are all the Artist.
One highlight of this year’s ArtLab event will be 10 minutes “laser talks” presented by a selected group of Vanderbilt individuals outlined below. These talks will showcase the process of using lights, lasers, and lenses through film, performances, digital art, photography, and microscopy.
Jonathan Rattner has found his specialization in informative film which promotes viewer interaction with the medium. A graduate of the University of Iowa and the NYU Tisch School for the Arts, his films – often an innovative collage of anachronistic and found footage – have been screened at numerous events including the Ann Arbor Film Festival and several academic institutions in the US and Europe. Jonathan is a current assistant professor in the department of Cinema and Media Arts at Vanderbilt.
Musician and multidisciplinary artist Alejandro Acierto endeavors to link the world of artistic expression to the corporeal self. On the side of music, his critically-acclaimed cross-cultural performances range from classical to experimental; he has often paired these musical interests with the visual arts, highlighting the realities and often ill-formed conceptions of immigrants and those underrepresented. Throughout international success, Alejandro remains a passionate educator, particularly in the field of new media, earning his MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago and serving as Mellon Assistant Professor of Digital Art and New Media here at Vanderbilt.
True to form of an ArtLab contributor, Jacob Steenwyk‘s interests both academic and personal are quite diverse. As part of the Rokas Lab at Vanderbilt, he specializes in investigating microbiology through utilizing a computer science background to model species phylogeny. Jacob is also a strong proponent of local science outreach, but outside of academia, his pursuits include serving in diversity committees, songwriting and digital music production, poetry, and graphic art – such as the algorithmically-based digital pieces which he has on display at ArtLab.
For native Nashvillian John Warren, the 16mm film camera has never gone out of style. By utilizing a technology which many others elect to pass by in conjunction with digital post-production means, his works function as a nexus between history his more contemporary subjects. The process of capturing film he describes as a revelatory process, a discovery of an inner emotion with melds with the subject of his lens. His work has been exhibited at countless festivals and fine arts museums both near and abroad, also receiving an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission. John is currently a professor of Video Art at Vanderbilt, in addition to performing outreach with local high schools and non-profit organizations.
Bryan Millis, a sort of microscope guru on campus, can be found day to day assisting students through the Cell Imaging Shared Resource (CISR) core. Bryan is a member of the Cell and Developmental Biology department and carries out his own research as well as helping other scientists attain a high level of microscopy. He also gives lectures to graduate students about the inner-workings of microscopes, lasers, and light paths. Recently, Bryan built a lattice light sheet microscope from scratch which is currently undergoing testing before being incorporated into the CISR lineup.